Wounded mountains

Source: The Hindu

Synopsis: Tourist tragedy in Himachal Pradesh points to the importance of preserving ecology

Background

  • The tragic death of nine tourists in a landslip in Kinnaur district of Himachal Pradesh is another example highlighting the fragility of the ecology of the Himalayan States.
  • Encouraging an incompatible model of development in the hills, represented by big hydroelectric projects and large-scale destruction of forests and damming of rivers, will erode its ecology.
  • Sooner, the Himalayan States may be entering a phase of irreversible decline because of losses to their ecology and frequent landslides may become inevitable.

Impacts of Hydropower Projects

  • The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Energy during 2018-19 noted that the State could more than double its existing harnessed hydropower potential of 10,547 MW.
  • But one scientific estimate warns that predatory tapping of the river through all planned projects would result in nearly a quarter of its waters in dams and a staggering 72% through tunnels.
  • Other researchers, studying the 2015 Nepal earthquake, point to high seismicity causing fatal landslides and severe damage to hydropower structures in the Himalayas.
  • It is clear that the cost of power produced was underestimated, while the potential was overestimated.
  • Also, the costs to people and communities, together with the loss of pristine forests that weak afforestation programmes cannot replace, are not taken care of.

Mega hydropower projects could alter several aspects of ecology, rendering it vulnerable to the effects of extreme events such as cloudbursts, flash floods, landslides, and earthquakes

 

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